Baras: A Secluded Surf Haven

Baras, one of the poor municipalities of the island-province of Catanduanes, is hoping that its new-found fame as a surfing destination will help in uplifting its farming economy.

It has Puraran Bay, which boasts of white-sand beach and high waves that attract professional and upstart surfers.

“Puraran is unlike the other surfing sites in the Philippines, which are commercialized and very crowded. I came here because the place is secluded and still unspoiled,” said Dante Blutmann, 46, a London-based Argentine surfer, who was among at least 15 Canadian and British tourists who visited the beach on March 9.

Surfers from around the world came to know about the bay through the Internet. “Without us even knowing, our town has been on the world map of tourists, especially surfing enthusiasts, because the word has been spread in the Internet,” said Rogelio Tendencia, municipal planning and development officer.

Tendencia said the surge of visitors had prompted the fifth-class municipality (annual income: P10 million-P20 million) to adopt a plan on how to take advantage of its tourism potential. The plan, implemented through an executive order of the mayor, calls for the creation of a tourism council that will take charge of tourism programs and development.

Through such body, Baras expects everyone involved in the local tourism industry to “work for unity and cooperation … in striving for the common interest,” Tendencia said.

Lack of funds

He, however, lamented the “lack of funds to sustain our tourism programs.”

This has forced the town to tie up with the Department of Tourism, the Philippine Tourism Authority and other concerned agencies, he said. “What we always do is to draft a simple plan and it is for the two agencies to decide how they can help.”

He said the municipality was banking more on longer-staying tourists rather than on more tourist arrivals. “A longer tourist stay has the same effect on the economy as increased tourist arrival without causing much human damage to natural attractions.”

But, Tendencia said the problem was that the residents, especially those living in Barangay Puraran, were still wary about the idea of fully opening their village to tourists.

“In fact, we have asked them to undergo training for home-stay accommodation of tourists, but only few have expressed interest despite telling them that it would add to their income,” he said.

Despite the difficulties, the local government is bent on promoting the Puraran Bay as an alternative surfing destination, its entry on the list of the “One Town One Product” program of the Department of Trade and Industry.

“We have started constructing simple facilities. We will also conduct surfing lessons by inviting professional surfers who can teach those willing to learn. Hopefully, we can start sooner,” Tendencia said.

After the May elections, the municipal government plans to launch full-blast its tourism programs.

But some officials are cautious at what could be the price of development. To allay such fear, the tourism development plan underscores the need for the “preservation of natural environment.”

By Jonas Cabiles Soltes
Source: Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 20:10:00 03/24/2010

Photo credits: Picasa (Public)

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